In an era of overhyped, overhyphenated musical miscegenation, Stubborn Son plays it straight, digging into rock n’ roll so earthy it’s almost elemental. Birthright, the young Seattle trio’s debut album, recalls Little Richard’s quote “Rhythm and blues had a baby and somebody named it rock n’ roll.”
Indeed, the Architect of Rock n’ Roll is part of Stubborn Son’s DNA. So are Led Zeppelin and Cream, the Black Keys and the White Stripes. Sensing a theme here?
Coming together in early 2014, singer/guitarist Garrett Lamp, bassist Andrew Knapp and drummer Blair Daly discovered that their mutual musical interests led to the very core of rock. Knapp and Daly had known each other since they were kids in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue; Lamp, a Spokane native, fell in more recently with Knapp via Seattle’s fertile live music scene. Each musician’s slew of influences meshed like greased gears in Stubborn Son. In the winter of 2014, they convened at Jupiter Studios with producer Martin Feveyear (Kings of Leon, Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan), to record Birthright over an intense two-week span. The album’s ten songs rev so high because the fuel they run on is pure. Birthright is a testament to honest and passionate expression—turned up to 11.
Take album opener “The Broken Heart Proof.” As the rhythm section kickstarts a martial backbeat, Lamp lays into his guitar like it’s a rocket heading to heaven and he’s hanging on for dear life. (And not just any guitar—along with “Thick as Blood” and “All Saints,” “Proof” is one of three tracks on Birthright where Lamp trades his Gibson for an acoustic slide resonator and all the righteous, silvery tone it imparts.) He sings about resilience: Just because you loved and lost doesn’t mean you’ll never love again. This, friends, is the Broken Heart Proof.
From affirmation to accusation: Driven by Lamp’s hard-grinding riff and Knapp’s echoing background vocals, second song “Make Believe” points a finger at hypocrites and egotists. Later on, “Vixen” tells an archetypal tale of its titular character, eliciting the kind of full-body lust that’s as dangerous as it is magnetic. With its languid, sultry simmer, album closer “Make Your Heart Stop” warns of a similar sort of tenuous romance before erupting into a raucous finale.
Each of these tunes is explosive but concise, Lamp balancing soulful vocals with aggressive guitar melodies while Knapp and Daly provide a thick-as-thunder rhythmic foundation. At nearly six minutes long, “Voices” is the album’s exceptional centerpiece, an epic of soul-searching and personal reckoning set to a ferocious rock n’ roll backdrop. Here the band blasts deep into instrumental territory, unraveling a slow-building groove that soundtracks a modern-day parable reminiscent of Robert Johnson’s meeting at the crossroads. “It’s time to go hunting for the devil…” Lamp intones, singing not of a biblical bad guy but the cynicism and self-doubt that haunt every one of us.
The guys of Stubborn Son are after meaningful good times—the kind generated from going through a trying experience and coming out the other end better for it. Doing it together—meticulously in the studio or sweat-drenched and howling from the stage of a packed club—forces emotional honesty. Dedicated to delivering truth to their audience, Stubborn Son arrives at the place they were meant to be, Birthright in hand.